Category Archives: Fitness

How to Make Exercise a Habit when You’re Sure that You’re the Laziest Person Ever

Oh, exercise.  We have such a funny relationship with it here in the US.  We put out national guidelines for a minimum amount of it yet our standard workplaces are completely sedentary.  We feature celebrities’ fitness routines in magazines yet we release studies that show that it is not nearly as important as diet in reaching and maintaining a healthy weight.  The whole thing is confusing and daunting and enough to make anyone wanna give up on all this crap and just go back to bed.

I am not a fitness professional in any way.  But I have been exercising at least 4 days per week for many, many years with very little self-forcing and I love it.  I’m someone who did not play a single sport other than Track & Field with the Nintendo Powerpad for my entire childhood, I hated gym class, I naturally move at a bit of a turtle-ish pace; and yet I have developed this habit, so I’m sharing this for all of you who have tendencies like me but don’t want that to stop you from getting in shape.

I originally drafted this post for around the New Year because I know that’s the time of year that so many people swear that THIS is the year they will become hardcore fitness machines.  But I feel that the beginning of spring lends itself much better to that kind of change, where so much of life is it’s beginning anew, days are longer and we’re feeling more energetic.  Not in January, when the calendar says that we’re beginning anew but our bodies say that anything beyond remembering to write ‘2012’ instead of ‘2011’ is just too damn much.

Read on, and before you know it, you will become one of those really annoying people that says things like, “You’ll never regret a workout!” and “Exercising is as much a part of my day as brushing my teeth.” All your friends will roll their eyes behind your back, but you will feel great.

Carve out the Time in Your Day First

I’m going to tell you something that is going to make the ‘Get thin quick’ devils on your shoulder go ballistic and say, I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THIS SHIT!  I’VE GOTTA BE BIKINI READY ASAP!  and make the ‘Be healthy for life’ angels on your shoulders sing their little hearts out.

If you are not in the habit of making any time at all in your life for exercise, I suggest that you initially start taking 30-45 minutes walks outside for four days a week, or however many days per week it’s your goal to exercise.  It doesn’t even have to be a power walk.  The idea is not to tone your tush or anything like that, though you might find that with all the extra endorphins you rile up by moving your body that emotional eating is easier to tame.  Instead, the goal is to get yourself moving and get used to the fact that this is a non-negotiable part of your week; and to do it in a way that you can’t weasel your way out of.

If, instead, you tried to make it four days a week of Booty Boot Camp or Spinning or Bikram Yoga or something that is legitimately tiring, it is just too easy to back out of it.  You will actually be exhausted and your body will ask for a well-deserved break, because that is a giant adjustment for someone who isn’t a regular exerciser.  By the time your thighs stop screaming in pain every time you sit down, it’s been days since you’ve exercised, and you’re no closer to developing the habits you’d like to.

Some of us have a real mental block to exercise, and even a leisurely walk feels impossible because we’ve been thinking of ourselves as couch potatoes for so long.  If that’s the case, don’t worry about it, just dial it back a touch and begin by devoting that same chunk of time per day to some kind of self-care activity.  Read inspirational books, meditate, take a bath, write in a journal, do whatever, it just has to be something that is nurturing to you and you have to really devote the full block of time to it.  Once it’s fully sunken into your little noggin that this chunk of time is YOU time, slowly work in a walk or two a week, until you’ve gotten up to all walking.

Once this has become a natural part of your day, you’ll be ready to gear up to moving your body in more challenging ways, which brings me to my next point.

Know Yourself and Don’t Do Anything that Makes You Wanna Puke

Some bodies were just not meant to run marathons.  Just because some lady on TV with a hot bod swears by Cardio Strip Tease (which I did once back in 2004 and found myself practically unable to move throughout the entire class, I guess for me feeling like a total douche causes temporary paralysis) doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you. Can I just tell you that I frickin hate Pilates?!  Honestly, I despise it.  My sister loves it yet thinks yoga is ridiculous, and I adore yoga.

When it comes to choosing the right exercise method for you, I very highly recommend that you adopt my 2012 philosophy of, “It’s not me, It’s you.” and honor your preferences and what your body asks for.  If a type of exercise makes you feel fucking miserable, that’s not your exercise.  See how easy that is?

Now, there is a difference between “This makes me feel fucking miserable.” and “This is uncomfortable but something inside me telling me to go for this challenge because it’s so worth it!”  You’re the only one who can judge that for you, no trainer or blogger or crazy bitch in a gym class can.  Deep down, you know how to tell laziness from THIS IS JUST NOT RIGHT.  Listen to that wisdom!

If you don’t have a blessed clue what you like, that’s a perfectly good place to start!  Now that you’ve developed your walking habit and have adjusted to setting aside the time in your day to move your body, be a researcher and start playing around with different types of exercise to see what makes you tick.  With the internet, fear of judgment by strangers for being a newbie is a non-issue, as is lack of options.  I mean, there’s even a Hula Hoop workout!

As you learn about what works and doesn’t for you, keep in mind that certain exercises will feel different to you depending upon your environment and the manner in which you do them.  For example, I absolutely detest treadmill running with every fiber of my being, but I like running outside.  And I only discovered I loved running outside once I took a New York Road Runners beginners running class where I built up to running three miles in a group, which was way easier than doing it alone.  Though I know I just told you that I love yoga, I have learned that I feel that any class called “Power Yoga” kind of blows.  See what I mean?

Be Flexible

Exercise took on a whole new meaning for me once I learned to work with my body and not against it.  What’s a good sign that you’re working against your body?  If you continually can’t follow through with what you set out to do, it might be time to readjust your goals.  Some of the ways I’ve learned to readjust is by exercising only four days a week (I used to always shoot for five and nearly always fell short.  Do you know how much better four days a week feels when it’s what you’ve set out to do rather than what you fell short with?) and always, always, ALWAYS taking off the weeks of Christmas and my birthday from exercise, no matter what.

I also don’t really sweat it if something happens that keeps me out of the gym for a week or so.  Last year some lady on the subway sliced my toe open with her shopping cart from hell and I couldn’t work out for weeks.  Once it was time for me to get back into it, I took it nice and slow, and that first week back I barely broke a sweat just going on the elliptical and listening to Lady GaGa.  I knew if I just got back in the habit of devoting the time to working out that before I knew it, I’d soon be running and lifting and yoga-ing once again.

When your overall habits support taking the time to exercise, you’re working out in ways that you enjoy, and you’re not wasting valuable energy beating yourself up; getting back on the exercise horse when you have to take a break is no big deal.

The beauty of not forcing this shit and really, truly listening to yourself is that many times yourself WILL tell you to exercise.  I’m a morning exerciser, and most days I have a little internal debate about whether or not to reset my alarm for an hour later and go back to sleep.  One morning, after many many years of applying everything that I’m writing about here, I had a thought that has motivated me through many many dawn workouts:  Whether I get up early now to work out or get up in an hour and get directly in the shower to get ready for work, both will involve a crusty and gross period upon rising.  It’s not like that extra hour turns me all bright eyed and bushy tailed.  So I might as well go exercise, because then by the time I get in the shower I’ll feel really good.  Besides, I never regret a workout (Ew.  Sorry).

I’m telling you this because I think a lot of women have this fear that if we really start listening to our bodies that our bodies will just want to pass out on a velvet couch hooked up to a Twinkie IV for all of eternity.  That will not happen.  Just like everyone else’s body, yours is very naturally and miraculously geared toward health and healing.  It just might take a little while to cut through the bullshit and access that urge.

A Summary, to save you time so you can go do some squat thrusts

Practice giving yourself time to exercise before you go all gung ho with a crazy fitness routine in a convoluted quest for Madonna arms.  Figure out what form of exercise you love and give the old heave-ho to anything that makes you want to cry.  Be honest with yourself about what you can realistically do, and don’t sweat it if you have to take a break sometimes, okay?

How to Be Comfortable in an Intimidating Gym Class Full of Crazy Bitches

Since we’re talking about easy ways for busy women to get healthy, we need to talk about group exercise classes.  Exercise classes are an excellent way to fit strenuous workouts into a cramped schedule.

You get lots of fitness bang for your time buck.  Classes usually last only an hour or so, and you slay a time vampire because one hardcore class can take the place of two less intense workouts on your own.

Since there’s an expert instructor in the room, he or she can show you how to exercise for maximum fitness impact.  This is way more effective than huffing your way through your Jillian Michaels DVD at home wondering if you’re doing it right.

Fantasy Exercise Class

Group exercise classes should be especially awesome for women.  We’re relationship-oriented creatures and natural connectors.  Establishing group bonds comes naturally to us. We thrive when giving and getting support from our fellow females, just as our lady ancestors did for thousands of years.

So theoretically, when we walk into an exercise class, it should be a joyful experience.  We’ll thrive on the powerful energy of a roomful of women doing something positive for our bodies!  We’ll help each other out in the name of sisterhood so each of us gets a challenging workout where we leave feeling energized and strong!  Right?

NO.  That’s not how it goes at all.

Reality Exercise Class

You’re proud to be getting your ass to a Saturday 10am Total Body Conditioning class at your new gym.  You arrive five minutes early, thinking that’s plenty of time.

You find a bunch of stressed-out-looking women with tight ponytails and $75 lululemon sports bras already lined up at the studio door.  Right away you regret wearing your standard gym wear, a pair of Old Navy yoga pants with a growing hole in the crotch and your size XL college t-shirt with the pit stains.

They’re all foaming at the mouth for the 9am class to end.  Once it does, these ladies rush the joint and push each other out of the way to grab weights, mats, steps, whatever.  They look bitchy and insane.

You want to ask someone what equipment you need, but you can’t get anyone’s attention amidst the chaos.  You nearly get your eye scratched out by a blonde clawing her way to the last 8 pound barbell.  You grab what you can and hope for the best, feeling more awkward by the second.

The class starts, and the instructor is terrifying.  He yells about feeling the burn, he singles people out when they stop to take a rest. The rows of well dressed gym bunny soldiers all follow his orders like robots, looking miserable.

Everyone seems to know exactly what they’re doing. You can barely keep up. You’re exhausted after five minutes. You consider leaving, but you’re afraid that the sergeant of sweat leading this hell brigade will yell at you.

You want to curl up and die.  Fuck this, you’re never coming back.

What You Can Do About It

 I feel for you, I really do.  I live in New York, so believe me – I’ve exercised next to the craziest bitches of them all.  I want to share with you the system I’ve used to deal with this uncomfortable situation, because you deserve all the benefits of taking part in group exercise classes.

1) Reframe your insecure thoughts.  Instead of thinking you suck, can you think of yourself as a beginner instead?  There is nothing wrong with being a newbie!  Even the most hard-bodied, perfect-looking girl in your class was not born with weights in her hands.

Give yourself a break, would you?  Allow yourself to be where you are on your health journey without  judgment.  Beating yourself up will distract you from the task at hand, which is taking extra special care of your precious self.

2) Get the instructor on your side.  If you can, talk to the instructor and be completely honest. Saying something like “I’m new here, and really nervous. Anything I should know before we start?” shows them that you’re not lazy, just learning and not necessarily the best target for an ass-kicking.

It’s the instructor’s job to serve you.  It’s your job to tell them how.  You deserve to get your needs met, but you have to make them known.  I know it’s scary to speak your truth, but isn’t it less scary than a militant instructor screaming in your face about your form?

A really helpful habit is to always approach the instructor at the end of the class to say thank you.  He or she wants to feel appreciated, just like the rest of us.  Thanking them for the class reminds both of you that the experience of the students truly matters.

If none of this works and the instructor still makes you feel uncomfortable, talk to your gym management.  They’ll either straighten the instructor out or guide you to a class that is appropriate for your fitness level that isn’t taught by a jackass.

3) Do what you can to tone down the frantic energy of the room. When I go to gym classes, I smile at everyone I catch eyes with.  I genuinely compliment at least one person.  I help people with putting away their equipment.  I tell people “Great job!”.

Do not underestimate how badly these sweaty hotboxes of insecurity need your niceness.  Refuse to get caught up in the bullshit of dirty looks about who has their mat positioned incorrectly and dump a giant helping of sweetness on all their asses.

4) Keep your self talk loving and positive. Please, please, please do not focus on pushing through any kind of pain.  That shit is so negative!  I blame all those weight loss reality shows where people exercise until they vomit.  Now we all pat ourselves on the back when we feel like crap.  Challenging is great, excruciating pain is not.

Ask yourself honestly if it’s healthy resistance you’re feeling or something else.  Have the courage to honor and listen to your body, even with the message “No pain, no gain” blaring in your ears.

Spend an hour of exercise telling yourself how hard and painful it is.  Then spend an hour of the exact same exercise telling yourself how great it feels to use your muscles.  You tell me which leaves you feeling more motivated to get back to the gym.

5) Go at least three times before you decide it isn’t for you.  I’m so sorry, sweetie. I know you want to run home to your safe couch and never go back.  I don’t blame you!

I am all about listening to your intuition. But you can’t even begin to hear your wise voice inside with your insecurity demons running wild like they are on your first day of a new class. You can’t make an informed decision until you’ve calmed yourself down.  You will calm yourself down by going a few more times before abandoning ship.

If Nothing Else, Remember These Key Points

  • The more crazed the crazy bitch, the more miserable she is on the inside.  She needs your kindness, not your fear.
  •  Take any action you can to drill the idea into your brain that YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO BE THERE.  I don’t care how out shape you are or how shoddy your gym clothes are.  You paid your monthly membership or you got your damn Groupon just like everyone else.  But most importantly, you are a human being.  You matter. You have value.

Hauling your cookies to the gym when you could be taking part in any number of self-destructive activities is something to be damn proud of, and to soil that with embarrassment is a waste of energy you could be using to kick ass in the class.

Hey, if all else fails, just arrive two minutes late and hide in the back.

I’ll meet you there – I’ll be the one in the huge UMass t-shirt with the yellow armpits.

I am dying to hear your thoughts about scary gym classes full of crazy bitches!  Any ridiculous stories to share?  What tactics have you tried?  Are you a crazy bitch with an expensive sports bra who now wants to murder me?  Lay it all on me in the comments!

 

HEY YOU!
I'm Marla Hamilton, and this is my blog. I write it because I want to make it very easy for you to feel healthy and great about yourself.Read more about me here.
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